Connecting Philadelphia nonprofits to crucial resources
The public library plays a central role in serving the dynamic needs of communities across the country, and is often the first place a person turns to for help. At the Free Library of Philadelphia, we are meeting those needs by offering services to Philadelphia’s nonprofit community. For nearly 50 years, we have been part of Candid’s Funding Information Network (FIN), providing access to nonprofit resources like Foundation Directory, free workshops, and expert staff.
As the nonprofit services supervisor, my job is to guide users through the often overwhelming number of nonprofit resources available. By curating resources, developing workshops, and assisting with research, my goal is to help Philadelphia nonprofits find the information and data they need for responsible nonprofit management and successful fundraising.
Accessing Foundation Directory is usually how people first come to know our FIN. While easy-to-use and intuitive-to-navigate, Foundation Directory can sometimes feel overwhelming to first-time users. The Free Library offers appointments to help people develop a donor research strategy and get the most out of using Foundation Directory. From there, they are hooked! Once people come through our doors, they also start to learn about additional nonprofit resources and services we offer to our community. Our FIN is a one-stop shop for nonprofit professionals, offering access to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, no-fee workshops, free professional headshots, referrals to experts, free meeting rooms, and more.
On the surface, it may seem like we are doing what most libraries are doing—providing our community with access to information. But over the past seven years working at the Free Library’s nonprofit resource center, I’ve learned that our nonprofit services go far beyond solely providing access to information. We also serve as the guide that helps nonprofits put this information to work for their cause. But, don’t just take my word for it. When we asked our community about the value we add to our local nonprofit ecosystem, our survey respondents said that “without our nonprofit research center:”
- “I would not have as strong a connection to the Philadelphia nonprofit landscape.”
- “this industry would feel a lot lonelier!”
- “there wouldn’t be an accessible, affordable nonprofit resource in Philly.”
Providing impact-driven nonprofit resources and services
Take, for example, Angela Marks, founder of Reading Allowed, who started working with our FIN in 2020. Angela had recently launched a new nonprofit organization and was looking for help finding funding opportunities and resources. During our first appointment, we met virtually to discuss Foundation Directory. Angela was up front about her newness to the operational side of the nonprofit world, but she was eager to learn, ask questions, and put in the effort required to run a successful organization. Since that first appointment, I’ve referred Angela to partner organizations; her organization has utilized our meeting rooms; Reading Allowed earned a Gold Seal of Transparency; and most impressively, her organization was awarded a substantial grant from a local funder. Angela credits her organization’s success to the help and guidance she received at the Free Library.
Angela’s story is one of many stories of nonprofits in Philadelphia that have benefited from our resources and expertise. As the only comprehensive, free nonprofit resource center in Philadelphia, our FIN sees its value not just in being an access point for information. We also see ourselves as a convener, an expert guide, a launchpad, and a welcoming space for Philadelphia’s nonprofit community. Our work has the unique benefit of not just serving “X number” of nonprofit organizations each year. Instead, the work we do to support Philadelphia nonprofits helps each one of them better serve their communities and constituents. Our impact goes far beyond the walls of the library and reaches into the corners of our city.
“Philadelphia is a city of nonprofits.” This response was shared in a recent survey we conducted. With over 9,000 nonprofits in our city, it couldn’t be more true. With so many people trying to do good in our community, there is a real need for free, accessible, and trusted information for nonprofit leaders. The Free Library’s aim is to be a place for these organizations to always find the information and guidance they need to create stronger communities.
Search our list of Funding Information Network partners to connect with Candid in your community.
Photo credit: Free Library Philadelphia, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons